Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I've got a secret I've been hiding under my skin

We have this bizarre dichotomy in the US of wanting everything to be infinitely convenient, yet infinitely inexpensive. When cell phone companies…sorry-wireless providers…started charging outrageous prices for directory assistance calls (I think Sprint is up to $2.50/number, but I could be wrong), it was only a matter of time before companies like 1-800-FREE-411 and Google started to offer free, advertising-based directory assistance.

Except Google, once again, has ulterior motives. From InfoWorld:

You may have heard about our [directory assistance] 1-800-GOOG-411 service. Whether or not free-411 is a profitable business unto itself is yet to be seen. I myself am somewhat skeptical. The reason we really did it is because we need to build a great speech-to-text model ... that we can use for all kinds of different things, including video search.

The speech recognition experts that we have say: If you want us to build a really robust speech model, we need a lot of phonemes, which is a syllable as spoken by a particular voice with a particular intonation. So we need a lot of people talking, saying things so that we can ultimately train off of that. ... So 1-800-GOOG-411 is about that: Getting a bunch of different speech samples so that when you call up or we're trying to get the voice out of video, we can do it with high accuracy.

So they are recording your voice requests and processing them to teach their ginormous computer system how to understand human speech. Just one more step toward the robots taking over the world.

Previous Stories:
Google = Skynet, Part 4
Jake's JK: This is not a good sign
Uh oh, Google is at it again
Google's Plan for Worldwide Domination

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